By: Staff  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

The dog fancy is the primary source of all good things flowing to and from the bond between humans and canines.

The dog fancy developed and nurtured obedience training, purebred rescue, ethical dog breeding practices, canine health research, and tests and trials to honor and conserve canine skills. Dog fanciers are prominent players in various other activities from therapy visits to nursing homes and hospitals to cooperative ventures with animal shelters, education programs for the general public, and participation in efforts to pass reasonable animal control and animal welfare legislation at local, state, and federal levels.

Dog clubs are the focus of the effort to recognize and enhance man's appreciation of dogs. Hundreds of informative newsletters from breed clubs, all-breed clubs, obedience clubs, and field trial clubs criss-cross in the mail or are available at the click of a computer mouse. Thousands of club members answer questions from the general public, questions that cover the gamut from "where do I find an Akita puppy" and "how do I house-train this dog I adopted from a shelter" to "I'm getting divorced and can't keep my Rottweiler; can you help me?"

The AKC, an organization for and about dogs that is run by member clubs, offers free education programs to schools; publishes magazines that inform and enlighten readers about dog health, breeding practices, training methods, and more; and supports the Canine Health Foundation, the Canine Good Citizen program, and the Companion Animal Recovery microchip identification program. AKC's nationwide network of public education coordinators and legislative liaisons spread the word about responsible dog ownership and reasonable dog control laws to every corner of the country. More than 4000 clubs host AKC events, including all-breed shows, specialty shows, obedience trials, agility trials, and tests and trials for hunting dogs, herding dogs, sighthounds, and terriers. Many of these clubs also host seminars on a wide range of topics, including canine training, health, and breeding practices.

The United Kennel Club publishes magazines that focus on dog sports, supports more than 10,000 events for working dogs, and provides education about dogs through its 1300 affiliated clubs.


The Irony

Together, AKC, UKC, and thousands of non-affiliated clubs and groups promote dog sports and pet dog training, help pet owners solve behavior and training problems, operate purebred rescue groups that take pressure off of shelters and save dogs, and provide public education. Yet, in spite of this heavy involvement in all things dog, AKC and UKC and their affiliated clubs take a back seat when reporters, lawmakers, and government agencies seek information about issues affecting dogs and dog ownership.

When the post office planned a bite prevention program to protect mail carriers, it went to the Humane Society of the US, an organization that promotes shelter adoption over purchase of well-bred purebred puppies, wolfdog bans, and animal welfare laws that usurp breeders' rights and opposes hunting with dogs, the Iditarod, and Greyhound racing.

When state legislators consider changes in animal welfare laws, they go to HSUS and other animal rights groups for advice and sample laws.

When March and the Iditarod rolls around, animal rights groups inundate the media with claims that the race is inherently cruel, and stories reflect those claims and place sled dog enthusiasts and race trainers and organizers on the defensive.

When communities consider bans on dog breeds as a quick-fix for animal control problems, newspapers print a guest editorial from Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in support of bans. The media goes to HSUS for comments, and HSUS speaks with forked tongue about bans, claiming on one hand that breed restrictions are unfair because there are no tests to positively identify breeds and on the other hand supporting bans on wolfdogs even though there are no tests to differentiate between dogs, wolves, and wolfdogs.

A recent dog bite report compiled in part by HSUS vice president Randall Lockwood stated that breed-specific legislation is not an appropriate response to dog bite attacks, yet HSUS orchestrated a wolfdog ban in Michigan that is being fought in court by the Michigan Wolfdog Association. After the suit was filed, several members of the organization were visited by the authorities, their dogs were photographed, and they were told that the photos would be stiudied to determine whether the law would be enforced against them.


Good Marketing

Animal rights groups are on hand when when cities and towns are inundated with dog problems because they have no community animal control plan, and they are ready with claims that breeders are at fault for dog deaths in shelters and draft proposals that restrict breeding.

Animal rights organizations weigh in on legislative issues even when not asked. As good marketers do, they keep their message in front of the public with press releases, guest editorials, and media contacts.

The American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals includes the following quote on its website: "The basic foundation on which any meaningful action can be taken to alleviate pain, fear and suffering of animals and prevent cruelty is the passage of laws." ASPCA pursues this mission by supporting such laws as the recent Safe Air Travel for Animals Act and New York's new breeder licensing law. Both laws adversely affect the dog fancy; the airline bill resulted in tighter restrictions that interfered with shipping dogs for breeding, for shows, and for travel to new homes, and the breeder restriction law is based on number of puppies sold annually, not kennel conditions.

The American Humane Association also opposes Greyhound racing, favors pre-conviction forfeiture of animals in cruelty cases, and uses outdated estimates of shelter euthanasia to support claims of pet overpopulation.

The Fund for Animals asked New York State and county health agencies to stop fox hunting when several hounds at one kennel came down with leishmaniasis; newspapers used the press releases from the group, even though the Masters of Foxhounds Association had already halted the hunts, put other control measures in place, and was working with federal government agencies to determine the spread of the disease.

Doris Day Animal League petitioned USDA to include all dog breeders in the Animal Welfare Act, and when that didn't work, the organization went to court to achieve its goal.

Animal rights groups are on the prowl. They take incidents and blow them into major crises. In Massachusetts, they campaign against Greyhound racing with photos of abused dogs even though the state's two tracks have no record of abuse. In Alaska, they claim the Iditarod is inherently cruel. In state campaigns for puppy lemon laws they deliberately blur the distinction between puppy mills, well-run commercial kennels, and responsible show breeders. In Illinois and Michigan, they work against hunting dog trials on public lands as an extension of campaigns against hunting in any form. In California they threaten to shut down a dog show because the go-to-ground trial uses live rats. They campaign against ear cropping and tail docking and for laws that allow forfeiture of impounded animals before the owner is convicted of a crime.


Divide and Conquer

First puppy mills, then Greyhound racing and the Iditarod, now breeding restrictions and hunt trial bans. The trial balloons are already out on reclassifying pet owners as pet guardians and changing state animal welfare laws so that pets are given special status. Toss in a wolfdog ban here and a pit bull or Rottweiler ban there and the noose tightens.

These divide and conquer tactics are chipping away at the dog fancy. To slightly paraphrase the Peter Finch character in Network, we have to stand up and say: "I'm mad as heck and I'm not going to take it any more!"

Knowing that we already do a great job of protecting dogs and nurturing the dog-owner bond isn't enough. Everyone who trains or shows a dog; everyone who works with a herding dog, a search and rescue dog, a therapy dog, a retriever, a pointer, a flushing spaniel, or a livestock guard dog; everyone who competes in sled dog races or weight pulls or draft dog tests; and everyone who breeds dogs must learn to speak with a single voice that says "Stop. We're not going to take it any more."


But it's not enough to say "Stop!" We have to back up our resolve with action. So ...

  • Get involved in local education efforts through obedience and all-breed clubs to bring the message of responsible dog training, ownership, and use to the public;
  • Get educated about animal rights campaigns so you can separate the wheat from the chaff;
  • Join and support local and state coalitions to provide a united front to protect the rights of dog owners and the welfare of dogs;
  • Join and support NAIA;
  • Convince friends and clubs to join NAIA and state and local coalitions;
  • Write letters to the editor and press releases about club events and programs;
  • Set aside personal likes and dislikes to answer letters, editorials, and articles that condemn breeding, racing, hunting, and other dog-related activities as cruel;
  • Get to know local and state legislators and their aides so you have a front row seat and the ear of at least one lawmaker when anti-breed, anti-breeding, and pro-animal rights laws are proposed;
  • Always be positive when contacting the press, the public, and government agencies and boards. If you are addressing a problem, suggest a solution and ask that dog clubs be included in implementation. If you are refuting distortions or untruths, do so with facts, not emotion.
  • Attend hearings, circulate petitions, stuff envelopes for candidates, work at education booths, and, above all, don't go away.

About The Author

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All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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